History comes alive in Germany in a way that it never will in textbooks. History, from the Holy Roman Empire to the Third Reich, can be found in every corner of Germany. It’s a land of castles that seem romantic now but probably weren’t that way to their original occupants. Listen to music by some of the world’s finest classical composers from Wagner to Beethoven. Two weeks in Germany gives you ample time to sample lusty beers, fine wines and the sausage this county is so famous for.

Berlin (3 nights); Start in Germany

Brandenburg Gate

Berlin has been around since the 13th century, giving it an historic aura. Berlin was heavily bombed during World War II, but has bounced back, becoming once again the capital of a unified Germany and home to outstanding cultural events, including concerts (try to get tickets to the Berlin Philharmonic). The Reichstag is perhaps the most important building you’ll see in Berlin; it’s where Germany’s parliament meets. Another must-see is the imposing 18th century Brandenburg Gate that is symbolic of Berlin. An important modern monument is the Berlin Wall that surrounded West Berlin during the Cold War Years. Most of the wall came tumbling down in 1989, but a memorial still contains a portion of it.

See Also: Where to Stay in Berlin

Dresden (1 night)

Dresden

Dresden, the former home of Saxon kings, is perhaps the newest “old” city you’ll ever visit. This centuries-old beautiful city was heavily bombed during World War II. Located on the Elbe River, many of the historic buildings in Dresden have been rebuilt. Today, it’s one of the greenest cities in Europe, with 63 percent of the land in parks and greenways. It has resumed its status as a cultural center, home to very fine art collections, with 12 museums making up the Dresden State Art Collections. If you’d rather walk around the city, Dresden has 13,000 monuments just waiting to be photographed.

See Also: Where to Stay in Dresden

Nuremberg (1 night)

Nuremberg

Nuremburg got its start as an imperial castle in the 11th century, but today is better known for its spectacular Christmas market and the trials of Nazi war criminals following World War II. Located in Bavaria, the old city was important to the science of astronomy. One of the city’s attractions includes the house of Albrecht Durer, who made one of the first maps of the stars. With a strong grounding in culture, Nuremberg is home to the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, with its 1.2 million objects making it the largest cultural history museum in Germany. If medieval fortifications are your bag, then a visit to Nuremberg Castle is a must; it’s one of the most formidable fortresses in Europe.

See Also: Where to Stay in Nuremberg

Wurzburg (stopover)

Wurzburg

Situated in northern Bavaria, Wurzburg makes a good stopover when traveling between Nuremberg and Rothenburg. If you have only enough time to see one thing, make it the Wurzburger Residenz, an imposing 18th century complex that is a local landmark. The former royal palace contains a church that is filled with art, including a noteworthy fresco, said to be the world’s largest, by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. The centerpiece of the palace, however, is the Emperor’s Hall that stresses the town’s links with the Holy Roman Empire.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber (2 nights)

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Take a step back into time as you visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber, part of the Romantic Road in southern Germany. Located in Bavaria, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is famous for its extremely well preserved old town. The name of the city, which dates back to the 10th century, translates as “fortress on the Tauber River.” The wall still surrounds the city; the western gate is very picturesque. Be sure to visit the Rathaus, the seat of city government since medieval times. Climb the steps of the hall’s tower for stunning views of the city. The city also is known for its Criminal Museum detailing punishments over the last thousand years.

See Also: Where to Stay in Rothenburg

Munich (3 nights)

Munich

Munich is famous for a number of things, including its beer and its Glockenspiel. It’s possible to take in both with a visit to Marienplatz, the city’s main square. Munich’s No. 1 tourist attraction, the Glockenspiel goes off daily at 11 a.m. (more often in the summer) from the new city hall tower. Following this performance, wander around the square for awhile then find a beer hall for a glass of Munich’s finest. Other top attractions in Munich include the Deutches Museum for science, the Englisher Garden, Olympic Park and the Pinakothek art museums. Take time to remember the past with a solemn visit to Dachau, Germany’s first concentration camp that is located in a quiet Munich suburb.

See Also: Where to Stay in Munich

Füssen (day trip from Munich)

The popular day trip from Munich, Füssen is castle country, with one of the most famous being Neuschwanstein. Considered the mother of all German castles, Neuschwanstein was the inspiration for the castle in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Bavarian King Ludwig II built the Romanesque revival castle on the ruins of two older castles to be his private retreat. Views of southwestern Bavaria are stunning, so be sure to go on a sunny day. Visitors should be prepared to walk to get to the castle. It takes about a half hour to walk there from the village (get your tickets before you make the climb). Horse-and-carriage and shuttle buses also are options, but do not go all the way up to the castle.

Heidelberg (1 night)

Heidelberg

Heidelberg is a picturesque town, part of Germany’s Romantic Road, on the River Neckar. World-famous for Heidelberg University, the town has much to offer tourists. There’s Heidelberg Castle, with its Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles, and a long, narrow old town with a pedestrian street lined with Baroque buildings. A good place to view the castle and old town is from Philosophers’ Walk on the north side of the river. The Church of the Holy Spirit is a building in Heidelberg that survived many wars over the centuries, and has been used by both Protestants and Catholics.

See Also: Where to Stay in Heidelberg

Frankfurt (2 nights)

Old buildings in Frankfurt

The largest financial centers in continental Europe, Frankfurt is home to lots of trade fairs and is one of the most important transportation hubs in the country. It’s therefore one of the best places to enter or leave Germany. All major airlines fly frequently to Frankfurt and connect it to every continent and major city in the world. It also boasts several things for tourists to see and do. It is home to Kaiserdom, the historic building where German kings and emperors were crowned from the 14th century on. The Imperial Cathedral, known formally as St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral, was built in the 14th century. The Romerberg, or heart of the city, is a must-see; it was considered one of the most beautiful squares in the Holy Roman Empire. The Romer, a Frankfurt landmark, has been home to the city government for more than six centuries.

See Also: Where to Stay in Frankfurt

Rhine Valley Cruise (day trip from Frankfurt)

Rhine Valley

A cruise on the Rhine River is the perfect way to end your 2 weeks in Germany. It’s time to rest feet that have grown weary after walking on cobblestone streets and through museums. Relax as your cruise boat glides past castles that sit on hills above the river. Sample some fine German wines as the steamer passes by vineyards and quaint villages. Fill your eyes with stunning scenery as you reminisce about this awesome country.

Berlin is the capital city of Germany and one of the 16 states (Länder) of the Federal Republic of Germany. Berlin is the largest city in Germany and has a population of 4.5 million within its metropolitan area and 3.5 million from over 190 countries within the city limits.
Berlin is best known for its historical associations as the German capital, internationalism and tolerance, lively nightlife, its many cafés, clubs, bars, street art, and numerous museums, palaces, and other sites of historic interest. Berlin’s architecture is quite varied. Although badly damaged in the final years of World War II and broken apart during the Cold War, Berlin has reconstructed itself greatly, especially with the reunification push after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
It is now possible to see representatives of many different historic periods in a short time within the city centre, from a few surviving medieval buildings near Alexanderplatz, to the ultra modern glass and steel structures at Potsdamer Platz. Because of its tumultuous history, Berlin remains a city with many distinctive neighbourhoods. Brandenburger Tor is a symbol of division during the world war, which now shows German reunification. It was built after the Acropolis in Athens and was completed in 1799 as the royal city-gate.
Germany was later on divided into east and west, In August 13,1961, East Germans permanently closed the border between East and West. The wall had 45,000 sections of reinforced concrete and included 79 miles of fencing, nearly 300 watchtowers and 250 guard dogs. Still more than 5,000 people escaped to freedom.

Berlin is a scene-stealing combo of glamour and grit, poised to mesmerise anyone keen to connect with its vibrant culture, bold architecture, global food, intense parties and easy-going vibe. Whether your tastes run to posh or punk, you can sate them in the German capital. Here are ten things to add to the top of your list.

Dimitri Vrubel’s iconic ‘My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love’ mural on Berlin Wall. Image by Mark Read / Lonely Planet
Dimitri Vrubel’s iconic ‘My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love’ mural on Berlin Wall. Image by Mark Read / Lonely Planet

1. Connecting with the Cold War at remnants of the Berlin Wall

Few events in history have the power to move the entire world. The Kennedy assassination. The moon landing. The events of 9/11. And, of course, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. If you were alive and old enough back then, you will probably remember the crowds of euphoric revellers cheering and dancing at the Brandenburg Gate. Although little is left of the physical barrier, its legacy lives on in the imagination and in such places as Checkpoint Charlie, the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial) and the East Side Gallery with its colourful murals.
2. Marveling at 6000 years of artistic greatness on Museum Island

Berlin’s ‘Louvre on the Spree’, this imposing cluster of five treasure-houses is the undisputed highlight of the city’s museum landscape. Declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1999, Museum Island showcases art and cultural history from the Stone Age to the 19th century. Feast your eyes on Roman, Greek and Middle Eastern antiquities at the Pergamonmuseum and Altes Museum, report for an audience with Egyptian queen Nefertiti at the Neues Museum, take in 19th-century art at the Alte Nationalgalerie and lean in for close-ups of medieval and Renaissance sculptures at the Bodemuseum.
3. Losing your weekend on Berlin’s sizzling dance floors

Berlin’s reputation for intense and unbridled nightlife is rooted in the libertine 1920s when everyone from Marlene Dietrich to Christopher Isherwood partied like it was 1999. Since the fall of the Wall, Berlin’s club culture has put the city firmly back on the map of hedonists. With more than 200 venues, finding one to match your mood shouldn’t be a tall order. Electronic music in its shape-shifting varieties continues to define Berlin’s afterdark action but other sounds like hip hop, dancehall, rock, swing and funk have also made inroads. The edgiest clubs take up residence in power plants, transformer stations, abandoned apartment buildings and other repurposed locations, especially in Kreuzberg, Neukölln and Friedrichshain.
Hamburger Bahnhof. Image János Balázs / CC BY-SA 2.0
Hamburger Bahnhof. Image János Balázs / CC BY-SA 2.0

4. Dipping into Berlin’s contemporary art scene

Art aficionados will find their compass on perpetual spin in Berlin. Home to 440 galleries, scores of world-class collections and thousands of international artists, the city has assumed a pole position on the global artistic circuit. Its main contemporary art showcase is the Hamburger Bahnhof, a vast museum housed in a former railway station whose loft and grandeur are the perfect foil for this top-notch collection of paintings, installations, sculptures and video. Exciting temporary exhibits complement the permanent collection that spans the entire arc of post-1950s artistic movements.
5. Standing before history at the Reichstag

It’s been burned, bombed, rebuilt, buttressed by the Berlin Wall, wrapped in fabric and finally turned into the modern home of the German parliament: the Reichstag, one of Berlin’s most iconic buildings. Designed by Paul Wallot in 1894, this is where the German parliament, the Bundestag, has been hammering out its policies since 1999. This followed a total makeover by Lord Norman Foster, who preserved only the building’s historical shell while adding the striking glass dome, which is accessible by lift.
Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin. Image by LH Wong / CC BY-SA 2.0
Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin. Image by LH Wong / CC BY-SA 2.0

6. Getting palace envy at Schloss Charlottenburg

An exquisite baroque palace, Schloss Charlottenburg evokes the onetime grandeur of the Prussian royals. It is particularly special to visit in the summer when you can fold a stroll, sunbathing session or picnic in the lush palace park into a day of peeking at royal treasures.
7. Tracing Jewish life in Germany at the Jüdisches Museum

In an architectural masterpiece by Daniel Libeskind, Berlin’s Jüdisches Museum presents an eye-opening and emotional journey through 2,000 years of Jewish history in Germany, not just the 12 years of Nazi horror that such exhibits often focus on. Find out about Jewish cultural contributions, holiday traditions, the difficult road to emancipation, outstanding individuals like the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn and jeans inventor Levi Strauss, and the fates of ordinary people and families.
8. Roaming, picnicking and carousing in the Tiergarten

Berlin’s rulers used the grounds to hunt boar and pheasants in the rambling Tiergarten until master landscape architect Peter Lenné landscaped the grounds in the 18th century. With its sweeping lawns, shaded paths, woodsy groves, romantic corners, ponds and creeks, the Tiergarten is one of the world’s largest city parks and a wonderful retreat from the city bustle. In summer, several charming beer gardens beckon, including Café am Neuen See and the Teehaus im Englischen Garten.

9. Indulging in shopping fun on Kurfürstendamm

No trip to Berlin would be complete without a saunter along Kurfürstendamm (Ku’damm for short) in Charlottenburg. Along with its continuation, the Tauentzienstrasse, it is the city’s longest and busiest shopping strip, lined with high-street chains and designer boutiques presenting the latest in streetwear or couture. Don’t miss the KaDeWe, continental Europe’s biggest department store with a mind-boggling food hall, or the cutting-edge concept and flagships stores at Bikini Berlin (http://www.bikiniberlin.de/en), a revamped 1950s landmark near Zoo Station. Amid all this, the majestically ruined Gedächtniskirche (Memorial Church) stands quietly as a poignant reminder of the absurdity of war.